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Teacher excess pool persists as start of school approaches

Rhetoric around the city’s excessed teachers has cooled off since last year, but the issue hasn’t disappeared. More than 1,700 teachers remain on the city’s payroll without full-time teaching positions, officials said today.

Teachers enter the so-called Absent Teacher Reserve pool when they lose their jobs to budget cuts or school closures. At the ATR pool’s height this summer, nearly 3,000 teachers were in excess. Just over 40 percent of those teachers either found jobs, retired, resigned or went on leave, leaving 1,779 still without positions.

That’s roughly the same number who lacked teaching jobs at this time last year. DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte said that there are currently just over 1,200 vacancies in the city’s schools, around 100 fewer open positions than there were just after the start of school last year.

Principals are currently only allowed to hire teachers already on the city’s payroll, except in certain areas like special education, science and some foreign languages. Earlier this summer, the city also relaxed its hiring restrictions for schools in the Bronx that were having trouble filling their open positions.

Forte said the city anticipates that the number of teachers in the excess pool will drop as the first day of school approaches and during the first few weeks of the school year. Last year, the rate of hiring increased rapidly just after school started, as principals adjusted their teaching staffs to the number of students who ended up enrolling.

When city officials released the ATR figures today, they were critical of the high number of teachers they say remain on the city’s payroll but who have given up looking for work. Nearly 60 percent of the teachers currently in excess have not applied for a new position through the city’s hiring system or attended one of the Department of Education’s recruiting fairs, they said.

But the city could not say today how many of the teachers who did apply for positions were eventually hired. Critics of the administration often charge that the city’s budgeting process, which requires principals to pay for the average salaries of their teaching staffs, harms older teachers with higher salaries when it comes to hiring and excessing.

City teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew said that Chancellor Joel Klein has the authority to unilaterally assign teachers in the pool to vacant positions. “The fact that he has chosen not to do so indicates that he prefers to have the issue to complain about rather than to resolve the problem,” Mulgrew said.

Last spring, Klein said that the experience level of teachers in the excess pool tends to fall along a bell curve, with most teachers having between five and 15 years of experience. An analysis by researcher Kim Gittleson using ATR numbers at that time showed that older teachers were over-represented in the excess pool.

The average salary of the teachers currently in excess is $82,000, and they have served for an average of 12 years, city officials reported.